The GLK carries a great deal of importance for Mercedes' future

The GLK carries a great deal of importance for Mercedes' future

This is not the best year, or even the best quarter, to debut a new vehicle. Sales are slow and slowing further, the global economy is weak, and financing is hard to come by. That makes the vehicles that do make their sales debuts now all the more essential to their companies' success - cars like Mercedes-Benz's GLK, the first example of which was delivered today to a retail customer in Bremen, Germany.

The GLK is all the more important to Mercedes because it is the company's first compact SUV or crossover-type vehicle. It is also the first vehicle made in Mercedes' Bremen facility, inaugurating the new production line. The Bremen facility is also expected to build the renamed next-gen CLK replacement, built on the new E-Class platform. The current CLK is built on a contract basis by Karmann. Returning production of such models to Mercedes' own in-house operations is another important step for the company, and the GLK is playing the leading role in that transition.

Delivery of the first GLK was made by Peter Schabert, the Bremen plant manager. The handover took place in the plant's customer center, where a 29-year-old entrepreneur and PR consultant took delivery of a GLK 320 CDI 4MATIC model in metallic Tenorite gray and featuring a plentiful array of optional equipment.

Mercedes is also reportedly considering U.S. production for the GLK as part of a way to cut costs and make the vehicle more profitable in the American market. Trans-atlantic shipment, European production costs and high materials prices are conspiring to make production in Germany less attractive than it has been in the past, especially taken against a still somewhat weak U.S. dollar.

Whatever the production fate of the GLK, however, the modification of the vehicle is already well underway, with a clutch of the cars headed to SEMA in several heavily modified formats.